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Tamilnation > Tamilnation Library> Conflict Resolution > Envisioning New Trajectories for Peace in Sri Lanka
TAMIL NATION LIBRARY: Conflict Resolution
From the Preface -
The seminar titled “Envisioning New Trajectories for Peace in Sri Lanka” was held in Switzerland- Zurich on the 7th, 8th and 9th of April 2006. It was jointly organized by the Centre for Just Peace and Democracy (CJPD) and the Berghof Foundation for Conflict Studies, Sri Lanka Office.
The seminar was governed by the confidentiality rule, known as “Chatham House Rules”, which prohibits the attribution of statements to particular speakers. This publication brings together the papers submitted by the participants together with seminar background materials. The participants were given the opportunity to revise their papers based on the feedback they received at the seminar.
The seminar brought together a wide range of scholars, academics and peace activists from all communities in Sri Lanka, intellectuals from the Tamil diaspora and Sri Lanka expatriate community and conflict transformation experts from the international community, with a view to exploring fresh approaches towards finding a sustainable solution to the ethno-political conflict in Sri Lanka. A list of the participants appears as an annex.
The participants were selected through a process of joint discussion between the organizers and they participated in their individual capacity and not as official representatives of any political party, organization or institution. Against a conflictual background which can at best be described as politically polarized culture with high levels of mutual mistrust, the organizers hoped to create an atmosphere of mutual respect, understanding and to create a common attitude towards problem analysis and generating creative options.
The seminar was organized at the track-2 level with a vision to revitalize a genuine discourse between influentials and policy makers across the conflict divide. As such, after a long period of silence, the event can be seen as an exploratory first step towards communication between actors at the track 2 level.
The CJPD is an organization formed by a team of diaspora Tamil intellectuals and international experts in the field of conflict resolution. The Center is committed to formulate alternate approaches to conflict resolution that will inspire the continuation of negotiations towards a just solution.
The Berghof Foundation for Conflict Studies, Sri Lanka Office, which was established in 2001 in Sri Lanka is mandated to enhance and support capacities for constructive conflict transformation. The overall mission is to support the Sri Lankan peace process at the Track 1.5 and 2 level through providing capacity building, reviewing, dialoguing and problem-solving opportunities for all principal stakeholders, through collaboration with partner organizations.
The goals of the seminar were to
Representatives from both organizations served in the function of either as chair or co-chair throughout the seminar.
The seminar was based on three assumptions.
In light of these assumptions, seven issue areas were identified for analysis before moving towards a more comprehensive understanding of the way forward.
1. Causes of conflict and factors leading to the ceasefire agreement (CFA)
· The three basic insights in Conflict Transformation practice and theory are
o Address the root causes of conflict
o Do not indulge in the hierarchy of assigning blame on each other as to who did what to whom.
o Acknowledge that in asymmetric conflict, the recognition of the past is crucial for moving forward.
· It is also crucial to understand the factors leading to CFA and evaluate if they are still valid.
2. Analysis of the CFA and its implementation
· This being the focal point of Geneva talks in February 2006 and its follow-up, it is essential now more than ever before.
· Has there been a change in the balance of power since 2001? (If it is no longer valid, then, what are the factors that may create equality?)
3. Politics of aid: SIHRN, Tsunami response, P-TOMS
The basic assumption of the peace process in 2002/2003 was that the “politics of normalization” can build a bridge between the CFA and the core political issues. This however, has completely failed to take place, even in the case of the Tsunami response.
4. Internal dynamics of the peace process
One of the basic insights in the assessment of peace efforts in Sri Lanka has been the policy of “ethnic outbidding and out-maneuvering” used on the southern polity. Right now, there is a realignment of ethno-nationalistic forces. These in turn, have an impact on the dynamics within the Tamil and Muslim polity. Hence, to make progress, these internal dynamics and reinforcing tendencies, need to be addressed.
5. Process Analysis of the Peace Process
Beyond internal dynamics, the other key factor would be the lack of interaction between the parties; the relationship between the GoSL and the LTTE
6. Strategies of the negotiating parties – net impact for the people
Two main topics were highlighted in this session: The factors that led to the lack of a tangible peace dividend for the people and the broader strategies pursued by the negotiating parties to maximize their BATNA (Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement)
7. International frame
The ‘international’ component of the peace process is of significant importance, especially given the discourse that the peace process is being ‘over-internationalized’. With the creation of an “international safety net”, the international community is perceived to be another stakeholder to the conflict in Sri Lanka. Moreover, the international component encompasses the involvement of Norway as the facilitator, the role of the co-chairs, the regional factors and the ensuing politics of sanctions and incentives.
The final eighth session was concerned with ‘Re-envisioning Sri Lanka’. The Seminar examined the lessons learned and explored the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead. Among the matters discussed was the question whether a resolution of the conflict may be secured by
a. an unitary constitution with extensive
The Seminar recognized the historical nature of the Ceasefire Agreement concluded between Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in February 2002 and the international recognition accorded to the Ceasefire Agreement.
While the seminar offered a rare opportunity for contact across the conflict divide and for dialogue between the communities, in the weeks preceding the seminar, relations between the GoSL, LTTE and the civilians in the NorthEast of the island had undergone a serious worsening. Following the postponement of the second round of peace talks in Geneva, the prospects for a negotiated settlement of this enduring conflict seemed to be bleak.
The Seminar was directed to encourage interaction and mutual understanding rather than consensus building and recognised the dangers of overestimating the importance of dialogue and communication in dealing with conflicts. The ultimate concerns of most disputes are tangible conflicts of interest, and structural factors. The Seminar was mindful that dialogues must therefore be placed in the context of the overall dynamics of conflict and conflict settlement.
Drawing on the experience from other conflict contexts, frozen negotiation processes create the risk of a cycle of escalation in which hostile acts feed into further distrust, hardening antagonistic positions and thereby generating further frustration that leads to further hostility. To break this cycle a concerted effort of all the stakeholders is needed. A political break-through invariably needs an intellectual break-through. This seminar may be seen as a genuine contribution and a modest beginning towards achieving this goal. More genuine efforts of this nature may be needed to help develop workable formulas, innovative concepts and out-of the box thinking.
 The Chatham House Rule originated at the Royal Institute of International Affairs ( also known as “Chatham House”) with the aim of guaranteeing anonymity to those speaking within its walls in order that better international relations could be achieved. When a meeting is held under Chatham house rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker, nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.